Democrat Jon Ossoff’s loss in the Georgia House special election should be a loud and clear wake up call for Democrats that their message is not working. Like a degenerate gambler who just doesn’t know when to stop, national Democrats poured tens of millions of dollars into Ossoff’s coffers, believing that he was the horse that was going to carry them to victory in Georgia and lead the charge toward capturing the House in 2018.
In short, he wasn’t. And it was an embarrassing blow for Democrats.
Ossify raised more money than any House candidate in history, more than $24 million since January, almost all of which flooded in from sources far afield from Georgia’s 6th District. In addition, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent an additional $5 million on TV ads and other left-leaning groups chipped in more than $1 million. And although Democrats are now attempting to do damage control by saying that the race never meant anything, you simply don’t spend that kind of cash with the intention of finishing second.
All of that money and all of that attention from “Resistance” Democrats—who made this race a referendum on President Trump’s early tenure—unwittingly turned this into a race that was too big to fail.
In a matter of months Democrats’ turned a young, relatively moderate, no-name Democrat into a national brand. CNN’s Don Lemon gushed that his rhetorical style “sounded like Barack Obama.” Slate fashioned him into a messianic figure who was going to lead “the progressive renaissance in Georgia.” And Vox argued that Ossoff’s message was reminiscent of “Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.”
And they also saw an opportunity to brand Ossoff’s seemingly inevitable win as a millstone around President Trump’s neck. After the primary, CNN’s Sally Kohn argued that it “damn sure was a referendum on Trump and Trump lost big league.” Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, tweeted, “Want to stop Trump? Help Ossoff.” Former Obama adviser David Axelrod called the election “a true bellwether in suburbs much like ’18 battlegrounds.” And the New York Times argued it was a “high-stakes referendum on Trump.”
In short, the left portrayed Ossoff as the future of their party, and the election as a litmus test on Donald Trump and his agenda. Maybe that strategy would have worked (if you consider buying a competitive seat for millions of dollars “working”) if Ossoff could have pulled it off. But again, he didn’t. And now, as Tiana Lowe writes for National Review, Democrats are right to be alarmed:
The Democratic panic is warranted. Ossoff’s losing 1.2 percent of Clinton’s GA-6 vote after the Democratic party put everything, emotionally and financially, on the line for a candidate they equated to their only remaining widely liked leader, has worrisome implications. Perhaps if the Democrats had put slightly less of a moral investment in this election, it would be seen for what it really is: a special election. But FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver aptly noted, “Sometimes dumb things matter if everyone agrees that they matter.”
And Democrats believed that the special election didn’t just matter, it was monumental. Or at least it was until they lost, at which point they immediately attempted to flip the narrative, suggesting the race was imperative for Republicans to win, not Democrats.
“Handel averted a humiliating upset for Republicans in a suburban Atlanta seat they have held for nearly 40 years,” the New York Times tweeted.
As deluded as they are, it’s still difficult to see how liberals could make themselves believe that this was anything but a significant setback. What is easy to see is that liberals will read the exactly wrong message into the results. They’ll assume that the loss of a relative moderate in Ossoff suggests that it’s time for the Bernie-wing of the party to take over. Matthew Yglesias, writing for Vox, is already dipping his toe into that deep end:
[Democrats] attempted to counter this move by positioning Ossoff as blandly as possible — just a kind of nice guy who doesn’t like Donald Trump — and dissociating him from any hard-edged ideas or themes. It’s a strategy that makes a certain amount of sense, but it also makes it hard to mobilize potential supporters. And by lowering the concrete stakes in the election, it also makes it easier for trivial and pseudo-issues to end up dominating in the end.
So at the end of the day, Democrats’ devastating defeat in Georgia may not just be a momentary and ultimately inconsequential political blip, it could be the nudge that pushes them over the edge into progressive oblivion.